The Kindness of Strangers

Whoever you are - I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
--Blanche Dubois (Tennessee Williams)

In the Bible, the angels who intervened in the lives of humans were most often strangers who appeared on the scene just once, gave assistance, and then disappeared as mysteriously as they arrived. From all the published firsthand accounts, the standard angelic operating procedure hasn't changed in five thousand years.

From this day forward, start becoming consciously aware of your encounters with strangers. Look for them. Smile. Make eye contact. Strike up a conversation. You never know. Even if it's not an angelic encounter, it might be a celestine moment. Several years ago I was in New York hostessing a week of Victorian lectures at Macy's. One day I was riding in a freight elevator. Not thinking I was doing anything extraordinary, I held the automatic door open for two employees with their arms full, asked what floor they wanted, and made chitchat. "You must not be a New Yorker," one commented. I told them I wasn't, and they broke into laughs. "Knew it. No New Yorker would be this friendly or helpful." Later that day as I was leaving, I was really struggling with two boxes of props and a costume bag when I ran into one of my new acquaintances. Not only did he offer to carry my boxes; he walked out to the street and waited with me until he hailed a cab, sending me on my way with a smile.

Never turn down a stranger's offer of help, unless you're alone in a dark, secluded place, where you shouldn't be in the first place. Life is hard for many women. But gradually, I'm becoming aware that it's really not as hard as we make it. One of the reasons real life is difficult is that we don't ask for assistance - from family, friends, co-workers, strangers. We feel uncomfortable, as if asking for help is confirmation that we're completely inept or spongers.

Stop the rather self-centered assumption that a little help is too much to ask for. Because we become a burden only when we're overwhelmed by our own hubris and have to rely on others to bear our load as well as their own.

Be kind to strangers. Let strangers be kind to you. Think of it as a positive exchange of comfort and compassion in the circle of life. Remember, as St. Paul reminds us, "Some have entertained angels unaware." And some of us have encountered them without knowing, sending them away before receiving their blessing.

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995

This has been a most busy week for me, but I am really getting into the summer season. Many of us are making plans for vacation, and some of you are on vacation. The kids are out of school, so drive carefully. The garden is growing and some vegetables are even ready for harvest. It was a week of very hot weather in the Pacific Northwest. And this webpage has had more than 400 hits - thanks for your support! So much for news from the home front.

I felt that the subject of this week's message was needed for further exploration; I had mentioned in another issue of Friday's Inspiration that I had been the object of a small act of charity. It was truly humbling to learn that lesson, the one about letting strangers be kind to me. I have, since then, looked for opportunities to return that favor, and have managed to do so several times.

Like a pebble, thrown into a pond, the ripples spread out. It amazed me to receive the kindness. It comes back, again and again, after passing that kindness on. It doesn't really cost us to be the object of another's kindness, and if we remember that here is another's chance to do good (unless we, because of some misplaced sense of pride, refuse...) it comes over us like a wave, instead of a small ripple, and benefits both giver and receiver. It reflects off of us in the way we feel about what happened, and how we choose to pass it on. That "positive exchange of comfort and compassion in the circle of life" is a gain for all.

Go ahead, make a few waves this week!



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